Anyone who begins an interreligious conversation with the
pronouncement of a common sharing of beliefs and values among the
world's religions, one that is merely masked by superficial semantical
differences, has done precisely that—only made a beginning. Such
declarations of commonality, although they contain a grain of truth, can
be maintained only at a superficial level. They start to lose meaning as
one goes deeper into the inner landscape, the experience, beliefs and
practices of the different religious traditions. Paul Knitter, a
prominent dialogue theologian, likens dialogue to the situation of a
newly married couple beginning to grow out of the infatuation that
brought them together. As they begin to experience the daily tests and
trials of living and working as partners, as they get to know one
another better, they soon arrive at the existential realization of how
bewilderingly different they are. Like the young couple experiencing the
harsh light of real living for the first time, Knitter observes that the
contemporary challenge in interreligious dialogue is to reconcile
. . . one might still believe that Ultimate Reality or God is
one and that ultimately differences will be swallowed into oneness; but
right now, in the dust and dirt of the real world, we have to deal with
the manyness, the differences, among the religions before we can ever
contemplate, much less realize, their possible unity or
is a term used to describe a great variety of interfaith
relations. Generally, it involves a collective process or a conversation,
a two-way communication or a reciprocal relationship in which two or
more parties holding significantly different beliefs endeavor to express
accurately to dialogue partners what they mean and to learn from each
other in the process. But dialogue is more than just an exchange of
views and has come to mean a personal process of refining the beliefs
and values of one's own faith vis-à-vis the insights that one has
gleaned from others.
Three goals of dialogue are succinctly summarized by Leonard Swidler,
a Catholic professor of interreligious dialogue: (1) to know oneself
more profoundly, just as one learns more about one's native land as a
result of living abroad; (2) to know the other ever more authentically;
and (3) to live ever more fully, a process described as "mutual
Furthermore, John Cobb, a
liberal Protestant scholar of interreligious dialogue, reflects the
academic consensus when he states that "a sharp distinction is made
between dialogue and evangelistic witness." While the latter aims at
conversion, the former does not. The goal is rather mutual
understanding, appreciation, and
This paper will explore the Bahá'í imperative to foster
dialogue. Questions arise along the way. Why, for example, should
Bahá'ís involve themselves in interreligious dialogue?
What does dialogue have to offer to the development of the
Bahá'í community? What challenges will
Bahá'ís face in the process? The focus in answering
these questions will not be historical, but rather will center on the
theory and practice of dialogue as depicted in the Bahá'í
sacred writings and how it correlates to contemporary scholarship in
Six Forms of Dialogue
Broadly defined, there are six ways that people engage in dialogue:
parliamentary dialogue, institutional dialogue, theological dialogue,
dialogue in community, spiritual dialogue, and inner dialogue. A brief
description of each will illustrate their distinctive features and the
interplay between them.
refers to large assemblies created for
interfaith discussion, such as those organized by the World Conference
on Religion and Peace and the British-based World Congress of Faiths.
The impetus to engage in interreligious dialogue in this century is
arguably the result of the first-ever parliamentary dialogue, the 1893
World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago. Such sizeable
international gatherings do not lend themselves to a tightly focused
agenda, but tend to explore broader concerns, such as the possibilities
for better cooperation between religions, and global issues such as
peace, poverty, and the environment. They also serve as an important
symbol of the strength and vitality of the interfaith movement.
includes the organized efforts of
particular religious institutions that aim at initiating and facilitating
various kinds of dialogue. This type of dialogue also seeks to establish
and nurture channels of communication between the institutional bases
of religious communities. The World Council of Churches and the
Vatican have been active in this area. Numerous variations of this form
of dialogue exist on a local level.
refers to the process of representatives
from different religious communities discussing theological and
philosophical issues in a structured format. Christians and Muslims
may, for example, concentrate their respective understandings on such
realities as their prophet-founders, their sacred scriptures, moral
values, and the role of religion in society. Academics in particular have
pioneered this type of dialogue.
Dialogue in community
is a term that encompasses the
unstructured interaction between people of different religions. "Most
interreligious dialogue takes place in markets and on street corners, at
times of festivals or holy days, in the course of civic or humanitarian
projects, at times of community or family
Importantly, it also includes
cooperative social projects organized by religious groups in response to
local problems and practical concerns.
is concerned with deepening spiritual life
through interfaith encounter. This type of dialogue does not struggle
with theological problems between religious communities, but rather,
focuses on shared experience as a means of developing spirituality.
Examples of this are participation in joint worship experiences, and the
common celebration of religious festivals and World Religion Day by
takes place within each individual as religious
perspectives change on encountering other faiths. This is "the dialogue
that takes place in our minds and hearts when we read the Bhagavad
Gita, when we meet a Buddhist monk or nun, when we hear the Muslim
call to prayer, or when we share the Sabbath meal with Jewish
The Dialogical Imperative
There are a number of Bahá'í scriptural passages that
bear on interreligious dialogue. In his Most Holy Book, the Kitáb-i Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh enjoins his followers to "Consort
] ye then with the followers of all
religions," and restates later in that book the command to "Consort with
all religions with amity and concord."6
call is reiterated on three occasions after the revelation of the Aqdas
in a similar vein: "Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit
of friendliness and fellowship."7
original Arabic for "consort" is most probably an imperative form of the
. Arabic-English lexicons suggest that the word used
in this form implies "to be on intimate terms, associate
with someone, and is indicative
of intimate social intercourse and
This term has the implication
of close, intimate association and fellowship, as, for example, the
members of the same clan would have had in ancient
The root of 'ashara
, which is the basis of the quranic term
appears three times in the Qur'an translated as
in the context of one's immediate family: "your brothers,
your wives, your clan
" (9:24); "warn thy clan
, thy nearest
kin" (26:214); "or their brothers, or their clan
Bahá'u'lláh's call to the peoples of the world to promote
unity and concord contains some explicit injunctions to dialogue. He
states that his revelation is centered on the promotion of the unity of
humankind: "The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His
Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the
human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst
In the same tablet,
Bahá'u'lláh expresses the desire that religious leaders of
the world "take counsel together" in order to implement whatever
measures are necessary to advance the cause of unity:
Our hope is that the world's religious leaders and the
rulers thereof will unitedly arise for the reformation of this age and
the rehabilitation of its fortunes. Let them, after meditating on its
needs, take counsel together and, through anxious and full deliberation,
administer to a diseased and sorely-afflicted world the remedy it
In another tablet, he calls the conflicting peoples of the world to
"gather ye together" so that differences may be explored and resolved:
O contending peoples and kindreds of the earth! Set your
faces towards unity, and let the radiance of its light shine upon you.
Gather ye together, and for the sake of God resolve to root out whatever
is the source of contention amongst you.14
Furthermore, Bahá'u'lláh commands the "men of wisdom
among nations" to "fix your gaze upon
Thus, Bahá'í sacred
scripture presents us with a series of statements that appeal to
leaders of both secular and religious thought to consult on the
challenges of and prospects for promoting unity.
Bahá'u'lláh's plan for the unity of humankind, elaborated
throughout his writings, calls for a range of approaches from
institutional and theological dialogue to the practical implementation
of such consultations through dialogue in community. Further
endorsement for the importance of dialogue comes from 'Abdu'l-Bahá's talks. While in North America in 1912, he stressed in a
number of talks in churches the need for theological dialogue: "We must
investigate reality"; "all of you must strive with heart and soul in order
that enmity may disappear entirely" and "seek the means by which the
benefits of agreement and concord may be enjoyed"; "the religionists of
the world must lay aside imitations and investigate the essential
foundation of reality itself. This is the divine means of agreement and
encouraged spiritual dialogue: "All must abandon prejudices and must
even go into each other's churches and mosques, for, in all of these
worshipping places, the Name of God is mentioned. Since all gather to
worship God, what difference is there?"17
Five Contributions of Dialogue
Interreligious dialogue would appear to be emphasized in the
Bahá'í writings for at least five major reasons:
Bahá'í Education and Scholarship:
serve as a tool for Bahá'ís to understand more fully the
meaning of Bahá'í scripture or, as Bahá'ís
put it, to "deepen" in the sacred writings of the Bahá'í
Faith. Knowledge of the teachings and scriptures of other religions can
aid in the understanding of the Bahá'í writings, which
are infused with the religious symbolism and imagery of other
revelations. This principle is most obviously exemplified in the case of
Islam, the study of which can enable Bahá'ís to learn
more about the theological background and terminology of their own
religion. This may be viewed as being analogous to the significant
impact of Jewish studies on modern Christian
Thus, Shoghi Effendi
suggests that the Qur'an is an "indispensable" tool for the understanding
of Bahá'í scripture:
The knowledge of this revealed holy Book [the Qur'an] is,
indeed, indispensable to every Bahá'í who wishes to
adequately understand the Writings of
It is interesting that Shoghi Effendi broadens this approach when
responding to a question of a young Bahá'í, in which he
recommends an "intensive study" of the Kitáb-i Iqan (Book of
Certitude) and Some Answered Questions.
He ends the letter by
encouraging study of the best contemporary religious scholarship in
order "to clarify" these Bahá'í texts:
It is well, too, to read contemporary books, selecting the
best, dealing with the same subjects, in order to become thoroughly
acquainted with the subject and be able to clarify the
Theological dialogue is a means to the same end of becoming
"thoroughly acquainted" with the best contemporary religious thinking
in order to "clarify the Bahá'í teachings." Moreover,
dialogue can provide the setting to uncover the universal qualities, the
ability of Bahá'í scripture to speak through their time
and intended recipient to all time.
Further to being a tool for education and insight, dialogue serves to
motivate people to challenge their present understanding of their
religion. Swidler describes that by acting as a "mirror" for a religious
community, participants are provoked into rethinking: "Our dialogue
partner . . . becomes for us something of a mirror in which we perceive
our selves in ways we could not otherwise
This mirror effect occurs because,
through dialogue, the participants are provided with a reflection of how
others see them. Since dialogue also raises many questions in the
process, it focuses the minds of the participants on aspects of their
religious teachings that need to be worked out and further clarified.
Another important challenge facing the Bahá'í community
is its approach to religious pluralism. There is a desperate need for
Bahá'ís to produce adequate literature that explores the
Bahá'í approach to the major
The scarce material that exists
has been written with Protestant Christianity and Shí'í
Islam in mind.23
Little has been written to
clarify the Bahá'í teachings in light of modern views of
world theology and religious pluralism.
I would maintain that a comprehensive Bahá'í theology of
other religions can only be worked out in the context of dialogue.
Dialogue acts as a theological tool and method to explore the
relationship of the Bahá'í Faith to other religions.
Discussing the importance of the dialogue methodology, Leonard
Swidler believes that there will be "no systematic reflection, including
Christian theology, [that] can appropriately be done today outside this
matrix of interreligious, Inter-ideological
In light of this statement,
Bahá'í scholars need to dialogue in order to develop a
Bahá'í theology of other religions.
The Transformation of Other Religions:
Dialogue can act as a tool
in fulfilling the preeminent aim of the Bahá'í Faith—the
transformation of the world religions so their sequence,
interdependence, wholeness, and unity can be realized. Shoghi Effendi
has written that " its avowed, its unalterable purpose" lies in its
relation to other religions—"to widen their basis, . . . to reinvigorate
their life, to demonstrate their oneness, to restore the pristine purity
of their teachings."25
In a related passage,
Shoghi Effendi states: "Its declared, its primary purpose is to enable
every adherent of these Faiths to obtain a fuller understanding of the
religion with which he stands identified, and to acquire a clear
apprehension of its purpose."26
Instructive in working towards this goal are two examples of dialogue
that 'Abdu'l-Bahá, as leader of the Bahá'í Faith,
had with religious leaders in the West. Both these encounters pursue
this challenging theme of the transformation of other religions. The
first took place in May 1912 in the United States with Rabbi Stephen
Wise, a prominent Jewish theologian of the day. The description of this
encounter suggests that the rabbi was impressed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá's message: "Indeed, indeed you are one of the greatest
logicians of the world. Up to this time I have been talking to you as a
man; now I will address you as a Rabbi."27
'Abdu'l-Bahá's approach in this interview was to champion the
cause of Christ and, in so doing, to challenge Jews to reconcile their
differences with Christians. His tribute to Christ is itself notable:
All the great prophets, the kings and the worthies of the
Israelitish nation could not make the Persians believe in Moses. All the
prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Nehemiah, et al., could not
make one Zoroastrian believe in Moses. But one Jew came and many
millions believe in Him. He spread His name in the East and in the West.
He caused the Bible to be translated in all the languages of the world,
and today nearly every home contains a Bible. He demonstrated
throughout the world to all the nations of the world that the Israelitish
people were the chosen people, that the Israelitish prophets were the
prophets of God, that their books were the books of God, that their
words were the words of God.28
'Abdu'l-Bahá pursued this approach in various addresses to
Jewish audiences in his tour of North America. When addressing a vast
congregation of two-thousand Jews in San Francisco in
'Abdu'l-Bahá challenged the
audience to widen the basis of their faith and accept Jesus Christ as
the Word of God: "Why do you not say that Christ was the Word of God?
Why do you not speak these words that will do away with all this
difficulty?" In Washington D.C., he similarly stated to another Jewish
audience, "And now it is time for the Jews to declare that Christ was
the Word of God and then this enmity between the two great religions
will pass away."30
Another interreligious encounter was with a group of Protestant
theologians and priests in Paris in February 1913. Here the emphasis
was on christology, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá presented an interpretation
of the Prologue of St John's Gospel which celebrates the uniqueness of
Christ without recourse to exclusivism. He then developed the theme
that religions have essential and non-essential parts, consigning the
dogmas (including the doctrine of the Trinity) and rituals of the Church
to the non-essentials. He suggests that many of these nonessentials
have been at the root of religious strife and conflict. The stage is then
set for a renewal of the essentials, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá continues
his discourse by highlighting principles foundational for a theology of
peace between the religions.31
in this encounter is the link made between religious differences and
Specialists in the field have argued that the process of transforming
other religions is central to the goal of dialogue. Paul Griffiths, a
professor of the philosophy of religions at the University of Chicago,
uses the term "positive apologetics" to describe a process by which
dialogue participants "relate themselves apologetically to claims made
by their opposite numbers within other religious
He argues that apologetics
"is an essential component of interreligious relations," and a task that
needs to be undertaken by "representative intellectuals" from religious
Griffiths believes that
without apologetics, dialogue is "pallid, platitudinous, and
Other writers in the field have
written that the purpose of dialogue is the transformation of the
religions. Cobb has written: "The transformation of the other traditions
ranks higher as a goal than their
Knitter suggests that the
aim of interreligious dialogue is for the dialogue partners to have "their
lives to be touched and transformed as ours have
However, the transformation is
reciprocal: "We must say that in dialogue, and beyond dialogue,
Christians seek to be transformed and to transform others through
Indeed, Knitter has
argued that the world religions cannot assume their full meaning
without this process:
. . . the Christian doctrine of the trinity needs the Islamic
insistence on divine oneness; the impersonal Emptiness of Buddhism
needs the Christian experience of the divine Thou; the Christian
teaching on the distinction between the ultimate and the finite needs
the Hindu insight into the nonduality between Brahma and atman; the
prophetic-praxis oriented content of the Judeo-Christian tradition
needs the Eastern stress in personal contemplation and "acting without
seeking the fruits of action."38
This sort of analysis can be extended to the Bahá'í Faith.
One can argue that the Bahá'í Faith can only assume a
fuller meaning when the Bahá'í teachings and practice
are allowed to benefit, for example, from the metaphysical insights of
Buddhism, the devotional practices of Hinduism, the Christian emphasis
on the prophet-founder as mediator and savior, the Islamic stress on
the sanctity of divine laws, and the importance of communal religiosity
in Jewish life.
The Transformation of the Bahá'í Faith:
noted above, reciprocity—the challenge to mutual transformation and
change—is integral to dialogue. Hans Kung has argued that interreligious
dialogue "calls for self-criticism and self-correction on all sides," and
a "reform of ourselves," if the world religions are to seriously
construct a theology of peace.39
Bahá'ís naturally are not immune from the need for self-renewal.
One potential area for the transformational effect of dialogue on
Bahá'í theology and practice lies in the
Bahá'í concept of religion. Moojan Momen, a leading
Bahá'í historian, has argued that Bahá'ís
have constructed a version of the Bahá'í Faith that is
based on Western concepts of what religion should be. "Thus, in their
presentations Bahá'ís emphasize the concepts of God, the
prophet or messenger of God, the revelation of a Holy Book, the
establishment of a sacred law, etc."40
Although this is understandable in view of the historical background
and development of the Bahá'í Faith, it has perpetuated a
somewhat narrow vision of religion and has consequently seriously
limited the potential of the Bahá'í Faith to be relevant to
non-Western societies. To overcome this problem, the
Bahá'í community needs to familiarize itself with and,
where compatibility is feasible, adapt itself to the worldviews of non-Western peoples. This vital process of broadening the basis of the
Bahá'í Faith can be undertaken by interreligious dialogue.
The Bahá'í Peace Program:
is integral to the process of developing a framework that will allow for
the sustainable development of world peace. Bahá'u'lláh
has stated that the "essence of the Faith of God" is to prevent religious
strife—an important goal of dialogue:
That the divers communions of the earth, and the manifold
systems of religious belief, should never be allowed to foster the
feelings of animosity among men, is, in this Day, of the essence of the
Faith of God and His Religion.41
The Promise of World Peace,
a Bahá'í peace
charter, calls religious leaders to dialogue in order to remove the
causes of religious strife by raising a challenging question: "How are
the differences between them [the world's religions] to be resolved in
theory and in practice?" The Universal House of Justice suggests a
partial response to its own question indicating that theological
differences will have to be submerged in a spirit that "will enable them
to work together for the advancement of human understanding and
The same exhortation was
extended to the Bahá'í community by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who challenged Bahá'ís and others to act as
a "propelling agent"43
obstacles to world peace.
The importance of the contribution of the world religions to the peace
process has been highlighted by a number of theologians. Knitter has
written: "Peace . . . is becoming a universal religious symbol that
challenges and calls together all
Hans Kung has argued for the
central role of interreligious dialogue in current international affairs
and that the only alternative to dialogue is continuing international
instability and warfare.45
In the quest to
tackle peace issues practically, religionists will realize that the
problems afflicting humanity cannot be resolved without a new world
vision and understanding of humankind and its future, a vision and
understanding that can be found in the world's great religions. Standing
together on the common ground of the desire for peace, the religions
can help construct a more fruitful dialogue than they have previously
Kung's call for a theology of peace to be constructed by interreligious
dialogue should not be confused with "an abstract, appellative theology
of peace of the kind that is so often preached in Rome and Geneva." Calls
to passive theologies of peace are ineffectual since general appeals to
understanding, tolerance, and peace do not stress commitment: ". . . so it
remains voluntary, harmless and inefficient." Rather, Kung argues that
"this theology of peace must be convincing by its
Douglas Martin's challenging presentation to the fortieth anniversary
gathering of the World Congress of Faiths addresses this need for a
creative and concrete theology of peace. It proposes a disinterested
study of the Bahá'í community as a model for the
realization of the goals of the Congress of Faiths and the wider
dialogue movement. The Bahá'í model can well serve as a
unique focus for an interreligious dialogue on peace:
The model is a global community which, far from seeing
itself as already complete or self-sufficient, is embarked on an infinite
series of experiments at the local, national, and international levels in
its efforts to realize the vision of mankind's oneness which it finds in
the Writings of its Founder and of all the Messengers of God.... No matter
how restricted in size or still restricted in influence the model may be,
such a phenomenon deserves the most able and the most disinterested
study mankind can bring to
There are two distinct advantages in furthering cooperative social
action between the religions as part of the peace process. The first is a
reason: the need for world peace and the alleviation of the
suffering of the victims of war is a universal concern of all religious
communities, and it therefore provides a common ground for all
religions to participate in dialogue. Every religion will feel the
obligation to respond. The second advantage is practical
indirect: the process of solving practical problems together will
eventually spill over into discussing the theological issues among the
religions. This "hermeneutical method" that facilitates dialogue will
evolve naturally once the participants have already worked together and
established a sense of trust and
Under the momentum of
practical dialogue in the community, the partners in dialogue will move
to prayer, reflection, discussion, and study. Knitter describes this
Having acted together, Buddhists and Christians and
Muslims now reflect and talk together about their religious convictions
and motivations. Here is where the partners in dialogue can enter into
the scriptures and doctrines and explain not only to themselves but to
others what it is that animates and guides and sustains them in their
The Emergence from Obscurity:
An important byproduct of
interreligious dialogue is that it reinforces the perception of the status
of the Bahá'í Faith as an independent world religion, and
one that has a contribution to make to the challenges facing humanity
today. Dialogue also creates alliances and friendships that can protect
the Bahá'í community from future opposition. In
reviewing the achievements of the Six-Year Plan (1986-92), the
Universal House of Justice wrote that the Bahá'í
community's involvement in the work of interreligious organizations
was a significant landmark in the participation of the
Bahá'í Faith in public affairs. In other words,
institutional dialogue has made an important contribution to the
emergence from obscurity:
. . . the formal relationship which the Bahá'í
International Community established with the Conservation and
Religion Network of the World Wide Fund for Nature and with the World
Conference on Religion and Peace, in conjunction with numerous such
relationships established by National and Local Spiritual Assemblies in
their respective jurisdictions, reflects a trend in the Faith's emergence
as an entity to be reckoned with.50
In summary, these are the main contributions of dialogue for the
Bahá'í community: it can aid in developing a more
profound understanding of the Bahá'í writings and a
Bahá'í theology of world religions; it can contribute to
the Bahá'í peace program and to a greater public
perception that the Bahá'í Faith is emerging as an
independent world religion; dialogue can act as a tool to transform the
world religions in order to promote their unity; and dialogue can foster
the process of broadening the applicability and relevance of the
Bahá'í Faith to non-Western societies.
CHALLENGES OF INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE
Dialogue presents a number of challenges to the Bahá'í
community. The first challenge is greater visibility.
Bahá'ís have not always been invited to participate in
interreligious exchanges. This is partly due to the fact that the
Bahá'í Faith has not yet achieved world religion status in
the eyes of many academics and religious leaders, and therefore would
not be afforded the privilege of a platform with other world
Bahá'í Faith is not a new religious movement (NRM), the
Bahá'ís themselves must take up John Saliba's challenge
to ensure their greater visibility at interreligious encounters: "many
members of NRM's apparently are not aware of the fact that social and
religious acceptance are not immediately granted by outsiders but
develop, often painfully, over a period of
As the Mormons have done over the
last century, new religions need "to make concessions to become
recognized as legitimate religious
A central concession is the
ability to benefit from the dynamic of internal self-criticism.
A related problem is that the development of Bahá'í
theology has not yet reached the requisite level from which a
constructive dialogue with the other world religions can proceed.
Historian of religion, Jacques Chouleur, noted in the 1970's that
Bahá'í theology is "too simple, too lax and vague. The
assertion that all religions are one and that the teachings of God's
envoys are identical may fail to convince those who go to the trouble of
closely comparing the words attributed to Jesus, Muhammad or Buddha
Denis MacEoin stated in the 1980's that "the level of sophistication of .
. . Jewish or Christian scholarship is considerable and enables useful
dialogue to take place. By way of contrast, the low level of attainment
in Bahá'í writing precludes anything like a meeting of
equals. Comparability only exists with the productions of groups like
Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, or Theosophists, with whom no useful
dialogue is likely in any case."55
A 1994 survey of articles on the Bahá'í Faith in academic
periodicals demonstrates that even this comparison may be flattering.
Over seventeen times more articles were written on Mormonism than
the Bahá'í religion during 1985-1993 according to one of
the most comprehensive indexes of academic periodicals, the Arts
and Humanities Citation Index.
Furthermore, the majority of the
Bahá'í articles in the 1980s were on the recent
persecutions of Bahá'ís in Iran and the architectural
aspects of the Bahá'í House of Worship in New Delhi
(dedicated in 1986). Few articles were published on theology,
philosophy, or history.56
Not only is more
scholarly literature badly needed, but a culture of critical reflection
and reform, important elements in the scholarly discourse among
dialogue communities, also need to be further developed in
Bahá'í studies. This need is further compounded by a
vicious circle: the continued development of Bahá'í
studies in part depends on theological dialogue with other religions, but
this dialogue cannot take place if Bahá'ís have nothing to
offer such a process.
Further important challenges await followers of all faiths to avoid
engaging in opportunistic manipulations of dialogue. "The term dialogue
has become faddish, and is sometimes, like charity, used to cover a
multitude of sins."57
Among these sins is
the "soft-sell" approach, which encourages partners in dialogue to
express their views in the hope that such a "dialogue" may well make
the "ignorant" person more receptive to the truth that only one side
possesses. Some may also feel that in today's more fashionable climate
of dialogue, they can more effectively communicate "the truth" to the
"ignorant" in a less aggressive style. The clear mandate put forward in
the Bahá'í writings is that of informed dialogue and
However, awareness of such potential misuses of dialogue need not
translate into a watered-down presentation of the truths held by the
participants in the various religious traditions. When dialogue is truly
free, participants will affirm their own beliefs clearly and
passionately. One of the more appealing and effective methods of
dialogue is that the laying bare of one's own deeply held religious
convictions establishes at the same time an open climate that eagerly
invites the dialogue partners to affirm their vision of the truth. Paul
Knitter argues that participants should speak from the richness of their
own religious experience in order to persuade: "We seek not only to
explain but to persuade." Therefore, dialogue is animated by "a certain
missionary þlan. We want our partners to see what we have seen; we
want their lives to be touched and transformed as ours have
Cobb reinforces this view: "Real
dialogue consists in the effort of both sides to persuade the
The motivation here is of sharing
with the dialogue partner, not trying to win them over. The hope is that
the dialogue partner can be transformed by the process. As dialogue
involves listening openly and attentively in an attempt to understand
the other's position as precisely and as much from within as possible,
Swidler notes that such an attitude assumes that at some point we
might find the dialogue partner's position so persuasive that, if we
were to act with integrity, we would have to change: "That means that
there is a risk involved in dialogue that old positions and traditions
may be found wanting."61
If we talk of
conversion, "then the conversion we seek is much more of a matter of
, of trying to 'turn around' our
Transformation rather than
conversion is the most appropriate term for the goal of dialogue.
Another challenge of interreligious dialogue is that participants may
find themselves becoming increasingly alienated from their own
religious community. Dialogue can be a lonely quest in which individuals
engaging in dialogue may find themselves inadvertently drifting further
and further away from their community of origin, partly because
dialogue brings about a growth in understanding and an extension of
religious experience that is not shared by those who have not
To summarize, dialogue presents some real challenges.
Bahá'ís must make greater efforts to ensure that they
are valuable contributors in forums of religious dialogue.
Bahá'í participants should guard against a tendency to
over-simplify a commonality of belief among the world's great
religions. The Bahá'í community must stimulate the
development of more scholarly literature and Bahá'ís
need to avoid conflating dialogue with propagation activities.
STARTING POINTS OF INTERRELIGIOUS
I propose here three main approaches that the Bahá'í
community could pursue in interreligious dialogue. Each of these three
"bridges"—the ethical, the intellectual, and the mystical/spiritual—can
link Bahá'ís to the communities of other faiths. Along
each "bridge," some practical steps are suggested as starting points in
The Ethical Bridge.
I argued above that cooperative social
projects focusing on world peace are advantageous in that they call the
participant religions to respond and create the momentum leading to
deeper forms of association and dialogue. Examples of practical
cooperation are given in a recent publication by Charles Kimball that
charts a way forward for Christian-Muslim relations. He asserts that
"opportunities for cooperative social action abound. Obvious concerns
relate to societal problems such as homelessness, poverty, and the
proliferation of drugs."63
that both communities can benefit from reciprocal learning, and that
Christians in particular have much to learn from Muslim initiatives in
drug and prison rehabilitation programs in North America. John Hick
also notes that the major interfaith effort of Jews, Christians, and
Muslims today "is rightly directed towards developing this practical
cooperation in face of the pressing need to achieve peace and justice on
earth within a sustainable global
One of Hans Kung's dialogical
imperatives in the "postmodern" world is the need for local and regional
interreligious groups and working parties to "discuss and remove
problems where they arise, and investigate and realize possibilities for
Diana Eck writes
that "our task is to learn to collaborate with one another on issues that
none of us can solve alone," and argues that dialogue should begin with
the questions that arise from the common context of our lives
This applies to Bahá'í communities who have both much
to learn from and much to contribute to cooperative social projects
with other religious communities. Examples of possible joint activities
include overcoming the seven obstacles to world peace identified in
The Promise of World Peace:
racism, extremes of poverty and
wealth, unbridled nationalism, religious strife, inequality between the
sexes, the low levels of education and literacy throughout the world,
and the lack of an international auxiliary language. On national and
international levels, dialogue can assist in meeting the goals of the
Bahá'í International Community (BIC) at the United
Nations whose external affairs strategy as outlined in October 1994, is
"to guide the global activities of the community for the immediate
BIC's strategy will concentrate
especially on human rights, the status of women, global prosperity, and
moral development. In a similar vein, in 1990, Hans Kung proposed a
future agenda for interreligious dialogue, after widespread consultation
with representatives of the various world religions. The agenda
includes the preservation of human rights, the emancipation of women,
the realization of social justice, and the immorality of
The challenge that the Universal House of Justice issued to the
Bahá'í community in 1983 for "greater involvement in
the development of the social and economic life of
and the opening of "a wider
horizon" of "new pursuits and undertakings upon which we must shortly
Bahá'í communities to work creatively toward
implementing their vision of an ever-advancing civilization, a process
that would do well to involve the participation and contribution of
The Intellectual Bridge.
Theological dialogue must take
note of religious differences. As noted in the introduction, Paul Knitter
argues that "we have to deal with the manyness, the differences, among
the religions before we can ever contemplate, much less realize, their
possible unity or oneness."71
is endorsed in the Bahá'í writings.
Bahá'u'lláh calls upon the peoples of the world to "root
out whatever is the source of contention amongst
and the Universal House of Justice
appeals to the religious leaders of the world to consider how their
differences can "be resolved in theory and in
Two difficulties are presented
to Bahá'ís who approach dialogue with these questions in
mind. The first is the tendency to oversimplify and to reduce all
religions to something they are not. David Tracy warns against this
danger, which is present in all religious communities that favor the
primordial tradition: "The official pluralist too often finds ways to
reduce real otherness and genuine differences to some homogenized
sense of what we already know.... Some pluralists, the vaunted
defenders of difference, can become the great reductionists—reducing
differences to mere similarity, reducing otherness to the same, and
reducing plurality to my community of right-thinking competent
A second related problem is to assume that religious differences will
be swept away as all humanity gradually embraces the
Bahá'í Faith. Although the Bahá'í writings
suggest nothing of the sort, this attitude is occasionally expressed
when Bahá'ís teach their faith. A notable and recent
example of this assumption on outsider perception is the comment of
the current President of the World Congress of Faiths, Edward
Carpenter. When Carpenter was asked about the relationship of the
Bahá'í Faith to Christianity, he explained: "it disturbs me
when on occasion I hear a well-meaning Bahá'í taking the
view that it is God's will that all religions will be absorbed,
ultimately, into the Bahá'í Faith. This is a form of
imperialism which, I think, we need to guard ourselves
Hans Kung has called for a
dialogue that places emphasis on religious freedom and tolerance: "The
question of truth must not be trivialized and sacrificed to the utopia of
future world unity and one world religion. On the contrary, we are all
challenged to think through anew, in an atmosphere of freedom, the
whole question of truth."76
In order to resolve religious differences, Bahá'í scholars
have identified a number of principles that are applicable to the many
theological disputes among the religions. Among the most controversial
differences are those concerning the nature of God and the nature of the
founders of the various religious communities. Bahá'í
scholars have explored three theories that attempt to address these
questions: cognitive relativism, the essence-attribute distinction, and
complementarity. These theories can be seen as hypotheses that should
be tested, developed, and refined in the context of interreligious
Moojan Momen has argued that the Bahá'í principle of the
relativity of religious truth means that any absolute knowledge of
ultimate reality is impossible. Consequently, individuals possess no
right to claim that their understanding is the only true one in any
absolute sense. Of the Divinity, Bahá'u'lláh has written:
"Exalted, immeasurably exalted, art Thou above the strivings of mortal
man to unravel Thy mystery, to describe Thy glory, or even hint at the
nature of Thine Essence."77
all descriptions, all schemata, all attempts to define the nature of God,
are limited by the viewpoint of the
All such attempts "are but a
reflection of that which hath been created within
This has led Momen to argue
that the theory of "cognitive relativism" is an important approach to
deal with conflicting truth claims among the religions. This theory
presents the view that the differing ways of conceptualizing the
Absolute Reality are each "true" relative to the individual who sincerely
makes them. Momen applies the principle of relativism to resolve the
contrast between the dualist (Judaeo-Christian-Islamic) and monist
(Eastern religions) perceptions of the Ultimate. Momen explores 'Abdu'l-Bahá's rich commentary of the Islamic tradition "I was a Hidden
Treasure," which presents the view that no matter how hard an
individual strives in an effort to gain a knowledge of the Absolute, the
only success is to achieve a better knowledge of his or her own self.
'Abdu'l-Bahá likens this state of affairs to a compass: no matter
how far the compass travels, it is only going around the point at its
center. Similarly, however much human beings may strive for and
achieve realms of spiritual knowledge, ultimately they are only
attaining a better and greater knowledge of themselves, not of any
As to the metaphysical nature of the prophet-founders, Juan Cole
discusses the theological implications of the philosophical distinction
between the essence of a thing and its attribute made by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, rather like the phenomenon-noumenon distinction of Kant,
to explain the differences between conceptions of the founders of the
Essence and attribute have an identical referent, save that
attribute is the thing as perceived and conceptualized, and essence is
the thing as it is in itself. Insofar as perception is never direct, but
always involves intermediaries between the perceiver and the object of
perception, the essence of a thing uncolored by perceptual
intermediaries . . . must remain in some sense
This approach can also significantly contribute to reconciling the
differences in the representation of the Ultimate among the world's
religions. An attempt in this direction has been made with John Hick's
complex theory of religious pluralism. Hick uses Kant's phenomenon-noumenon distinction to hypothesize that the great world faiths are
various responses to the Ultimate, conceived and experienced through
differing human perceptions, some in terms of the Deity
or Ultimate as personal, and others in terms of the Absolute as non-personal:
On this view the God figures—Adonai, the Heavenly Father,
Alláh, Vishnu, Shiva, etc.—are different personae of the Real,
formed jointly by the ultimate universal presence in which "we live and
move and have our being" and by the different historical thought-forms
projected by the human mind. Likewise the non-personal Brahman, Tao,
Dharmakaya, etc. are impersonae of the Real, formed at the interface
between the Real and the non-personal religious thought-forms that
have been developed within yet other
A third approach to religious differences is through the principle of
complementarity. Cole applies Niels Bohr's principle of
complementarity—a conceptual model to explain the observable
phenomenon that electrons appear to behave under certain conditions
like particles and under other conditions like waves—to explain
differing understandings of the historical founders of the world
. . . the Manifestations of God exhibit evidences of both
divinity and humanity in much the same way as electrons behave
alternately as waves and particles and that as with the latter, so with
the former, both models need taken in conjunction if a more complete
understanding is to be reached.83
Cole suggests that the Christian-Muslim debate about the station of the
founders of their religions can be partially reconciled by suggesting
that Christians have perceived one aspect of the prophet-founder (the
particle) and Muslims another (the wave).84
Again, this philosophical idea can be used to resolve differences in the
conceptions of the deity. For example, Cobb, himself a pioneer in the
field of Christian-Buddhist dialogue, has argued that Zen Buddhist
thought and traditional Christian teaching in relation to the Ultimate
can be seen to be complementary. The foci of the two traditions are
seen as "compatible without being identical" so that the following
resolution can be suggested:
Is it not conceivable that in the full complexity of reality,
so far exceeding all that we can know or think, "Emptying" identifies
one truly important aspect, and "God" another? I think so: Would
acknowledging that possibility contradict fundamentally what it is
most important to either Zen Buddhists or Christians to assert? I think
not. But to come to that conclusion does require that one rethink the
insights on both sides.85
The Mystical-Spiritual Bridge.
Much writing on
interreligious dialogue has been done by individuals who have pioneered
theological dialogue. Consequently, there has been a temptation to over-emphasize the importance of this form of dialogue. Monica Hellwig, a
Catholic professor of interreligious dialogue, has made an important
critique of theological dialogue and argued for the centrality of
spiritual dialogue: "the exchange of theologies is not the fundamental or
primary path to mutual understanding, but depends very heavily on some
prior experience of the ritual, the life and
Drawing on the thinking of Hans
Gadamer and, in particular, his theory of interpretation, which proposes
that the meaning of a dance is in the dancing of it, the meaning of a
song is in the singing of it, and the meaning of life in the living,
Hellwig proposes that "one approaches the meaning of others' dances,
songs and lives across bridges of empathy in which the imagination
enters into experience other than its own." It is only at this level that
explanations, theories, and prescriptions convey
Hellwig is, therefore,
suggesting that spiritual dialogue is "a primary path" to understanding
This theme was explored by the distinguished Bahá'í
writer and dignitary George Townshend, who represented the
Bahá'í community at the first World Congress of Faiths
in 1936. In his presentation, Townshend explored the importance of
mystical experience in demonstrating the unity of religions, the
striking "fundamental unity of all mystical experience":
If one is to accept the account of their experience given by
contemporaries or by themselves, these mystics seem all the world
over to have gone upon the same spiritual adventure, to be drawn
onward by the same experience of an outpoured heavenly love....
By what diverse paths have mystics who had nothing in
common save whole-hearted servitude before the one loving God, by
what diverse paths have they all alike attained the blessed
Townshend suggests that the example of mystics would lead
worshippers in all religions to "find something in the fundamental
nature of religion itself which promotes a sweet, precious and abiding
sense of true companionship."89
There is also a sense in which the mystical-spiritual bridge can aid in
developing the community life of religions. It is notable that
Bahá'ís face a great challenge in cultivating a deeper
sense of both spirituality and community. The ritual and mystical
sparseness of Bahá'í community meetings has been noted
by Michael Fischer, professor of anthropology at Rice University. He
recalls his disappointment on visiting the Bahá'í House
of Worship in Chicago in finding that the service lacked ritual richness
As an anthropologist, however, I was somewhat
disappointed: what was read from each text destroyed the particularity
of the tradition from which it was drawn, leaving, seemingly, but banal
Momen has noted that "what we have in the West, where
Bahá'í groups meet for a few hours each week, can
scarcely be called a community. The term 'Bahá'í
community' is more an expression of an aspiration than of present
This weakness is sometimes
reflected in the public presentation of their religion by
Bahá'ís. Jacques Chouleur has observed "a certain
reticence or timidity in exhibiting this mystic aspect of their religion
and its Founder" in preference to a focus on the social teachings. He
warns of the potentially tragic consequences of becoming detached
from "the essentially mystic origin" of the Bahá'í Faith.
The transfiguration of this earthly world by the
implementation of the Bahá'í principles may be for them
a doubtless exhilarating objective, but quite incomplete, insufficient if
it is deprived of mysticism and
Thus, I would argue that the Bahá'í community needs to
engage in spiritual dialogue for two reasons. It provides a deeper
understanding of other religions, or as Hellwig puts it "a primary path
to mutual understanding," and an approach demonstrating the unity of
religious experience. The mystical-spiritual bridge also addresses a
deep need in the Bahá'í community to develop an
ambience of spiritality and mysticism in Bahá'í
gatherings, services, and commemorative events that can contribute to
the creation of a richer community life.
In summary, I have examined three bridges that can link the
Bahá'í community to other religions in dialogue. I have
proposed that the ethical bridge should focus on tackling obstacles to
world peace in cooperative projects with other religious communities.
The intellectual bridge needs to confront religious differences and
attempt to resolve them. The mystical-spiritual bridge can
significantly enrich the nature of Bahá'í community and
devotional life and contribute to a Bahá'í theology of
I am grateful to Arash Abizadeh, Morten Bergsmo, Mina Fazel, J. A.
(Jack) McLean, Udo Schaefer, Robert Stockman and others who have
commented on earlier drafts of this paper.
1. Paul Knitter, "Interreligious Dialogue:
What? Why? How?" in Death or Dialogue?: From the Age of Monologue to
the Age of Dialogue, ed. by L. Swidler, et al. (London: SCM Press, 1990) p.
2. "Interreligious and Interideological
Dialogue: The Matrix for all Systematic Reflection Today" in Towards a
Universal Theology of Religion, ed. by L. Swidler (Maryknoll: Orbis,
1987) pp. 26-27.
3. "A Dialogue on Dialogue" in Death or
Dialogue?: From the Age of Monologue to the Age of Dialogue, ed. by L.
Swidler, et al. (London: SCM Press, 1990) p. 8.
4. D. Eck, "What do we mean by 'Dialogue'?"
Current Dialogue, vol. 11 (1986) p. 11.
5. Ibid., pp. 14 15.
6. The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy
Book (Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1992) K75, K144.
7. Tablets of Bahá'u71ah Revealed
after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, trans. by H. Taherzadeh with the
assistance of a committee at the Bahá'í World Centre
(Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1978) pp. 22, 35, 87.
8. H. Wehr, A Dictionary of Modern Written
Arabic, ed. by J. Milton Cowan (Weisbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1979) p.
9. E. W. Lane, Arabic English Lexicon, vol. 2
(Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society Trust, 1984) p. 2051.
10. I am grateful to Stephen Lambden for
11. H. E. Kassis, A Concordance of the Qur'an
(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983) pp.
281-82. Cf. Qur'an 22:13, where the masculine noun 'ashir
12. Gleanings from the Writings of
Bahá'u'lláh, trans. by Shoghi Effendi, rev. ed. (Wilmette,
Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1976) p. 215.
13. Ibid., pp. 215-16.
14. Ibid., p. 217.
15. Tablets, p. 67.
16. The Promulgation of Universal Peace:
Talks during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912, comp.
Howard Macnutt, 2d. ed. (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing
Trust, 1982) pp. 40, 42, 299, 339.
17. Star of the West, vol. 9, no. 3 (Oxford:
George Ronald, 1978) p. 37.
18. The studies of Geza Vermes, for
example, have caused New Testament scholars to revise the meaning of
the phrase "Son of Man" and the New Testament texts in which this
phrase is contained.
19. From a letter written on behalf of
Shoghi Effendi, dated 23 November 1934, in Deepening our
Understanding and Knowledge of the Faith, comp. Research Dept. of the
Universal House of Justice (London: Bahá'í Publishing
Trust, 1983) pp. 31-32.
20. From a letter on behalf of Shoghi
Effendi, quoted in The Bahá'ís Magazine, Vol. 24 (Chicago:
Bahá'í News Service, 1934) p. 144.
21. "Dialogue on Dialogue," p. 63.
22. Stephen Lambden, "Doing
Bahá'í Scholarship in the 1990s: A Religious Studies
Approach," The Bahá'í Studies Reuiew, vol. 3, no. 2 (1994)
23. Examples include the work of George
Townshend and Robert Stockman in Protestant Christianity; Mirza Abu'l
Fadl, Fadil Mazandarani, and Abbas Amanat in Shí'í Islam.
24. "Interreligious and Interideological
Dialogue," p. 5.
25. The World Order of
Bahá'u'lláh: Selected Letters, rev. ed. (Wilmette, Ill.:
Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1974) p. 114.
26. Ibid., p. 58.
27. "Interview between a Prominent Rabbi
and Abdul-Bahá," Star of the West, vol. 3, no. 9 (24 June 1912)
29. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, rev. ed.
(Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1974) p. 291.
30. Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp.
31. "'Abdu'l-Bahá on Christ on
Christianity," The Bahá'í Studies Review, vol. 3, no.1
(1993) pp. 7-17.
32. An Apology for Apologetics: A Study in
the Logic of Interreligious Dialogue (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1991) pp. 1, 14.
33. Ibid., pp. 3, 7.
34. Ibid., p. xii.
35. "Dialogue," p. 9.
36. "Interreligious Dialogue," p. 23.
37. Cobb, "Dialogue," p. 9.
38. Paul Knitter, No Other Name? A Survey
of Christian Attitudes towards World Religions (London: SCM Press,
1985) p. 221.
39. Global Responsibility: In Search of a
New World Ethic (New York: Continuum, 1993) pp. 131-32.
40. "Learning from History," The Journal of
Bahá'í Studies, vol. 2, no.2 (1990) p. 61.
41. Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, trans.
Shoghi Effendi, rev. ed. (Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing
Trust, 1979) p. 13.
42. Universal House of Justice, The Promise
of World Peace (London: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1985) p.
43. Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 12.
44. "Interreligious Dialogue," p. 29.
45. "Christianity and World Religions:
Dialogue with Islam" in Towards a Universal Theology of Religion, ed. by
L. Swidler (Maryknoll: Orbis,1987) p. 194.
46. Global Responsibility, p. 131.
47. D. Martin, "Bahá'u'lláh's
Model for World Fellowship," World Order, vol. 11, no.1 (1976) p.19.
48. Knitter, "Response II," in Death or
Dialogue?: From the Age of Monologue to the Age of Dialogue, ed. by L.
Swidler, et al. (London: SCM Press, 1990) p. 129.
49. "Interreligious Dialogue," p. 35.
50. Universal House of Justice, Ridvan
Message, April 21, 1992, in A Wider Horizon: Selected Messages of the
Universal House of Justice 1983-1992. Comp. by Paul Lample (Riviera
Beach, Florida: Palabra, 1992) p. 100.
51. For a discussion of this issue, see my
paper "Is the Bahá'í Faith a World Religion?" The Journal
of Bahá'í Studies, vol. 6, no.1 (1994) pp. 1-16.
52. J. A. Saliba, "Dialogue with New
Religious Movements: Issues and Prospects," The Journal of Ecumenical
Studies, vol. 30, no.1 (1993) p. 72.
54. J. Chouleur, "The Bahá'í
Faith: World Religion of the Future," World Order, Vol. 12, no. 1 (1977) p.
55. D. MacEoin, "Problems of Scholarship in
a Bahá'í Context," Bahá'í Studies Bulletin,
Vol. 1, no. 3 (1982) p. 58.
56. Seena Fazel, "The Bahá'í
Faith and Academic Journals," The Bahá'í Studies Review,
Vol. 3, no. 2 (1994) p. 83-85.
57. Swidler, "A Dialogue on Dialogue," p. 57.
58. The difficulties outlined are more
problematic for NRM's (Saliba, "Dialogue with New Religious
Movements," pp. 72-77), but nevertheless are present to one degree or
another in the Bahá'í community. Specific examples are
found in Bahá'í literature, where examples exist of
dialogue being conflated with missionary-type activities, and where
literature towards other religions is occasionally overtly critical. In an
important review, Chris Buck has highlighted this failing of
Bahá'í apologetic literature: "Apologetic . . . has taken on
implicit invective" and "that criticism is not sufficiently
counterbalanced by construction." ("Review of The Prophecies of Jesus
by M. Sours," The Journal of Bahá'í Studies, Vol. 5, no. 2
 pp. 79-86) It would appear that negative apologetics outweighs
positive apologetics in some Bahá'í theological
59. "Interreligious Dialogue," pp. 23.
60. "Dialogue," p. 9.
61. Swidler, After the Absolute: The
Dialogical Future of Religious Reflection (Minneapolis: Fortress Press,
1990) p. 3.
62. Knitter, "Interreligious Dialogue," p. 23.
63. C. Kimball, Striving Together: A Way
Forward in Christian-Muslim Relations (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1991) p. 119.
64. J. Hick, "Interfaith and the Future," The
Bahá'í Studies Review, Vol. 4, no. 1 (1994) p. 4.
65. Global Responsibility, p. 137.
66. Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey
from Bozeman to Banaras (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993) pp. 213, 218.
67. Letter from the Universal House of
Justice, Department of the Secretariat to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 10
68. Global Responsibility, p. 88.
69. Letter of the Universal House of Justice,
20 October 1983, in A Wider Horizon, p. 139.
70. Universal House of Justice, Ridvan
letter, 21 April 1983, in A Wider Horizon, p. 138.
71. "Interreligious Dialogue," p. 20.
72. Gleanings, p. 217.
73. The Promise of World Peace (London:
Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1985) p. 12.
74. D. Tracy, "Christianity and the Wider
Context: Demands and Transformations," Religion and Intellectual Life,
Vol. 4 (1987) p. 12.
75. C. Gouvion and P. Jouvion, The Gardeners
of God: An Encounter with Five Million Bahá's (Oxford: Oneworld,
1993) p. 169.
76. "Foreword" to The Peace Bible, ed. by S.
Scholl (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1986) p. 8.
77. Gleanings, pp. 3-4.
78. Momen, "Relativism: A Basis for
Bahá'í Metaphysics," in Studies in Honor of the Late
Hasan M. Balyuai: Studies in the Bab & Bahá'í Religions,
Volume 5, ed. by M. Momen (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1988) pp. 200-201.
79. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p.
80. Momen, "Relativism," p. 203.
81. J. R. I. Cole, "The Christian-Muslim
Encounter and the Bahá'í Faith," World Order, Vol. 12, no.
2 (1977-78) p. 24. Cf. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions
(Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1984) pp. 146-50.
82. "Straightening the Record: Some
Response to Critics," Modern Theology, Vol. 6, no. 2 (1990) p. 191.
83. "Christian-Muslim Encounter," pp. 26-27.
85. "Dialogue," p. 6.
86. M. K. Hellwig, "The Thrust and Tenor of
Our Conversations," in Death or Dialogue?: From the Age of Monologue to
the Age of Dialogue, ed. by L. Swidler et al. (London: SCM Press, 1990) p.
87. "Thrust and Tenor," p. 50.
88. G. Townshend, Bahá'u'llah's
Ground Plan of World-Fellowship as Presented by 'Abdu7-Bahá in
The Bahá'í World. Volume 6 (New York:
Bahá'í Publishing Committee, 1937) pp. 617, 618.
90. M. Fischer, "Social Change and the
Mirrors of Tradition: The Bahá'ís of Yazd," in The
Bahá'í Faith and Islam, ed. by H. Moayyad (Ottawa:
Association for Bahá'í Studies, 1990) p. 26.
91. "Learning from History," p. 66, fn. 11.
92. "The God of Bahá'u'lláh,"
World Order, Vol. 13, no. 1 (1978) pp. 18-19.